In the previous chapter the Alter Rebbe described the spiritual profile of the Beinoni. In the Beinoni’s heart, said the Alter Rebbe, evil desires may often arise, but his divine soul constantly prevents such desires from finding expression in actual thought, speech or action. On the contrary, these three soul-garments are the exclusive domain of the divine soul and are utilized by the Beinoni only for thought, speech and action of Torah study and the fulfillment of the mitzvot.

ובזה יובן לשון מאמר רז״ל: בינונים זה וזה שופטן פירוש: יצר טוב ויצר הרע

Accordingly, we may understand the comment of our Sages1 that “Beinonim are judged by both [their good and evil inclinations]” — both “judge” him and dictate his conduct. As Scriptural support for this contention, the Talmud cites:

דכתיב: כי יעמוד לימין אביון להושיע משופטי נפשו

For it is written:2 “He —the Almighty — stands at the right hand of the poor man, to save him from them that judge his soul.” The plural “them that judge” indicates the presence of two judges within the person, the evil inclination and the good.

We thus find that the Beinoni’s inclinations are described as his “judges”. Now, were the term Beinoni to be understood in its simple, literal sense of one who has an equal history of good deeds and bad, it should more properly be said that “the Beinoni is ruled by both [inclinations]”. For one to sin, his evil inclination must rule him; for him to do good his good inclination must rule. The Beinoni who supposedly does both, must be ruled (and not merely “judged”) by both.

However, according to the explanation of the term Beinoni given in the previous chapter, it is clear that, indeed, the Beinoni is merely judged by both inclinations, not ruled by both, as shall be explained presently.

ולא אמרו: זה וזה מושלים, חס ושלום

Note that [our Sages] did not say, “He is ruled by both the good inclination and the evil,” G‑d forbid,

כי כשיש איזו שליטה וממשלה ליצר הרע בעיר קטנה, אפילו לפי שעה קלה

because where the evil nature gains any rule and dominion, albeit momentarily, over the “small city,” i.e., whenever the evil rules one’s body (likened to a city which both the good inclination and the evil seek to conquer),

נקרא רשע באותה שעה

one is deemed “wicked” (rasha) at such times.

אלא היצר הרע אינו רק, על דרך משל, כמו שופט ודיין האומר דעתו במשפט

Rather, the evil inclination in the Beinoni is no more than, for example, a magistrate or judge who expresses his opinion on a point of law,

ואף על פי כן יכול להיות שלא יהיה פסק הלכה כך למעשה, מפני שיש עוד שופט ודיין החולק עליו

yet in fact his decision is not necessarily final, for there is another magistrate or judge who disagrees with him.

וצריך להכריע ביניהם, והלכה כדברי המכריע

It then becomes necessary, in order to formulate a binding decision, to arbitrate between the two, and the final verdict will rest with the arbitrator.

כך היצר הרע אומר דעתו בחלל השמאלי שבלב

Similarly, in the battle between the evil inclination and the good: The evil inclination states its opinion in the left part of the [Beinoni’s] heart, i.e., it creates an evil desire in his heart and demands that he act accordingly, thus rendering “judgment” as to his future conduct.

ומהלב עולה למוח להרהר בו

From the heart [the desire] ascends to the mind for contemplation. This ascent is automatic; whenever a desire is awakened in the heart, the brain will contemplate it.

ומיד חולק עליו השופט השני, שהוא הנפש האלקית שבמוח

Immediately upon its ascent to the brain it is challenged by the second “judge”, the divine soul [residing] in the brain,

המתפשט בחלל הימני שבלב, מקום משכן היצר הטוב

which extends into the right part of the heart where the good inclination abides (i.e., reveals itself).

The good inclination is actually the voice of the divine soul’s emotional attributes, and is hence active in the right part of the heart; see ch. 9. The good inclination thus battles the evil, ensuring that the latter’s passion not be realized, for the “opinion” of the good inclination is that all of the body’s faculties and organs be utilized only for matters of holiness.

והלכה כדברי המכריע, הוא הקב״ה, העוזרו להיצר טוב

The final verdict rests with the arbitrator — the Holy One, blessed be He, who comes to the aid of the good inclination, enabling it to prevail over the evil inclination.

כמאמר רז״ל: אלמלא הקב״ה עוזרו אין יכול לו

As our Sages say,3 “[Man’s evil inclination gathers strength daily,…and] if the Almighty did not help him (i.e., help his good inclination) he could not overcome it (his evil inclination).”

והעזר היא ההארה שמאיר אור ה׳ על נפש האלקית

The help that G‑d grants him is the glow of divine light that illuminates his divine soul,

להיות לה יתרון ושליטה על סכלות הכסיל ויצר הרע, כיתרון האור מן החושך, כנ״ל

that it may gain superiority and mastery over the folly of the “fool”, the evil inclination, [a dominion] paralleling the superiority of light over darkness, as stated above, in ch. 12.

Just as a little light banishes much darkness, so is the abounding folly and darkness of one’s evil inclination driven away by dint of the little light of holiness emanating from his divine soul. It is this ray of divine illumination that constitutes G‑d’s assistance to the divine soul.4

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to resolve the contradiction and answer the question noted in the opening words of the Tanya:

The Talmud states that a Jew is charged with an oath to regard himself as wicked, whereas elsewhere, the Mishnah declares: “Be not wicked in your own estimation.” Also: “If a person considers himself wicked, he will be grieved at heart and depressed, and will not be able to serve G‑d joyfully and with a contented heart.”

He now explains that the meaning of the oath — which literally reads, “Be in your own eyes like a rasha” — is that one regard himself not as an actual rasha, but as like one, having traits similar to those of a rasha. This means that he must consider himself a Beinoni, who possesses the same evil in his soul as does a rasha and can desire evil just as a rasha does.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

אך מאחר שהרע שבחלל השמאלי בבינוני הוא בתקפו כתולדתו, להתאות תאוה לכל תענוגי עולם הזה

Yet, inasmuch as the evil in the left part of the Beinoni’s heart is in its native strength, craving after all the pleasures of this world,

ולא נתבטל במיעוט לגבי הטוב ולא נדחה ממקומו כלל

and is neither so minute as to be nullified before the good of the divine soul (as is the case with a tzaddik), nor has it been displaced from its position to any degree,

רק שאין לו שליטה וממשלה להתפשט באברי הגוף

but merely lacks authority and power to become diffused throughout the limbs of the body to cause them to do, speak or think evil; nor is the evil’s lack of ability attributable to the Beinoni’s efforts, for his evil, like that of the rasha, retains its native strength to pervade the entire body; rather, the evil is powerless merely

מפני הקב״ה העומד לימין אביון, ועוזר ומאיר לנפש האלקית

because of the Holy One, blessed be He, who “stands at the right hand of the poor man,” helping him and irradiating his divine soul so that it may be able to prevail over the evil.

Thus it is only Divine intervention that prevents the evil from pervading the body; essentially, however, the evil of the Beinoni’s animal soul is as strong as it was at birth.

לכן נקרא כרשע, כמאמר רז״ל: אפילו כל העולם כולו אומרים לך צדיק אתה, היה בעיניך כרשע

Therefore [the Beinoni] is described as being “k‘rasha” (“like a rasha”), but not actually a rasha, as in the statement of our Sages, “Even if the whole world tells you that you are a tzaddik, be in your own eyes like a rasha.”

ולא רשע ממש

He should not [regard himself as] an actual rasha, for the Mishnah admonishes,5 “Be not wicked in your own estimation.”

Moreover, regarding oneself as a rasha hinders one from serving G‑d joyfully.

אלא שיחזיק עצמו לבינוני

Rather, one should consider oneself a Beinoni,

ולא להאמין להעולם שאומרים שהרע שבו נתבטל לגבי הטוב, שזו מדרגת צדיק

and should not believe i.e., accept the world’s opinion which would have him believe that the evil in him has been nullified by the good, for this is the level of a tzaddik.

Only the tzaddik succeeds in nullifying and transforming the evil within him. But the “world”, which judges the Beinoni by his actions and sees that he never transgresses, assumes that he too has effectively banished from within him the evil that is the cause of sin; consequently, people regard him as a tzaddik.

He is therefore cautioned against accepting the opinion of “the world.”

אלא יהיה בעיניו כאלו מהותו ועצמותו של הרע הוא בתקפו ובגבורתו בחלל השמאלי כתולדתו

Instead, he should take the view that the essence and core of the evil is in its full native strength and might, in the left part of his heart,

ולא חלף והלך ממנו מאומה

not having vanished or departed from him at all.

ואדרבה נתחזק יותר בהמשך הזמן שנשתמש בו הרבה

On the contrary, with the passage of time [the evil] has gained strength because he utilized it i.e., the animal soul considerably,

באכילה ושתיה ושאר עניני עולם הזה

in eating and drinking and in other mundane pursuits.

As with every faculty, constant use of the animal soul causes it to become even stronger than it was at birth.

The Alter Rebbe thus concludes that the words “consider yourself ‘like a rasha’” mean that one must consider himself a Beinoni. The above applies even to those who have reached a lofty spiritual level; they too should consider themselves Beinonim. For should one consider himself a tzaddik and maintain that the evil within him has already been nullified by the good, he will cease to do battle with the evil. If he is mistaken and is not in fact a tzaddik, such an unfounded attitude can cause him to slip drastically from his level, descending even lower than the level of a Beinoni to that of a rasha.

* * *

Until now we have been speaking of a working man who does not have the opportunity to spend all his time in Torah study and divine service. Now the discussion turns to the individual who spends all his time immersed in the study of Torah.

ואף מי שבתורת ה׳ חפצו, ויהגה בה יומם ולילה לשמה

Even if one’s entire aspiration is in G‑d’s Torah, which he studies day and night for its own sake,

אין זו הוכחה כלל שנדחה הרע ממקומו

this is still no proof whatever that the evil has been dislodged from its place.

אלא יכול להיות שמהותו ועצמותו הוא בתקפו ובגבורתו במקומו בחלל השמאלי

Perhaps, rather, the essence and substance of the evil are in their full strength and might in its abode in the left part of the heart,

רק שלבושיו שהם מחשבה דבור ומעשה של נפש הבהמית אינן מתלבשים במוח והפה והידים ושאר אברי הגוף

except that its garments — namely, the thought, speech and action of the animal soul — are not invested in the brain, mouth and hands and other parts of the body, to think and do that which is forbidden,

מפני ה׳ שנתן שליטה וממשלה למוח על הלב

because G‑d has granted the mind supremacy and dominion over the heart.

ולכן נפש האלקית שבמוח מושלת בעיר קטנה, אברי הגוף כולם

Therefore the divine soul in the mind rules over the “small city,” i.e., [over] all the parts of the body,

שיהיו לבוש ומרכבה

making them,the body’s organs, serve as “garment and vehicle”

I.e., as a means of expression (“garment”) that is totally subservient to its user (as is a “vehicle” to its rider); thus, because of its G‑d-given supremacy, the divine soul is able to use the body’s organs as a “garment and vehicle” —

לשלשת לבושיה שיתלבשו בהם, שהם מחשבה דבור ומעשה של תרי״ג מצות התורה

through which its three “garments” — namely, the thought, speech and action of the Torah’s 613 commandments — are expressed (“clothed”).

It may be, then, that with regard to this individual’s thinking and speaking words of Torah and performing the mitzvot, the divine soul rules over the body; in this area the divine soul has the upper hand and the animal soul is subservient.

אבל מהותה ועצמותה של נפש האלקית אין לה שליטה וממשלה על מהותה ועצמותה של נפש הבהמית בבינוני

However, in its essence and substance the divine soul has no preponderance over the essence and substance of the animal soul, in the case of a Beinoni,

כי אם בשעה שאהבת ה׳ הוא בהתגלות לבו

except at those times when his love for G‑d manifests itself in his heart

בעתים מזומנים כמו בשעת התפלה וכיוצא בה

on propitious occasions such as during prayer and the like.

Then, as mentioned in the previous chapter, the Beinoni is aroused to a burning love of G‑d that causes the evil of the animal soul to be nullified before the goodness of the divine soul.

ואף גם זאת הפעם

Even then, during those times when the divine soul gains the upper hand over the animal soul,

אינה רק שליטה וממשלה לבד

it is limited to preponderance and dominion alone, i.e., the divine soul succeeds in dominating the animal soul, not in vanquishing it, in the sense of nullifying its essence.

כדכתיב: ולאום מלאום יאמץ

As is written of the battle between Jacob and Esau,6 allegorically representing the war between the good and evil in man’s soul: “And one nation shall prevail over the other.” Jacob, exemplifying the good, merely prevails over Esau, the evil, but does not succeed in totally vanquishing him.

כשזה קם זה נופל, וכשזה קם כו׳

This agrees with our Sages‘ comment on this verse: “When this one rises and prevails that one falls, and when that one rises…[this one falls].”

The animal soul, although it had “fallen” during prayer, is afterwards able to “rise” and rally once again, indicating that the divine soul had not succeeded in vanquishing it even during prayer, for which reason even its dominance is only temporary.7

שנפש האלקית מתאמצת ומתגברת על נפש הבהמית במקור הגבורות, שהיא בינה

Thus, the divine soul gains strength and ascendancy over the animal soul, in the source of strength [“Gevurot”], which is understanding [“Binah”] —

In the Kabbalah’s description of the Sefirot, Binah is the source of Gevurah. In terms of one’s divine soul, this means that the source of its strength (“Gevurah”) to combat the animal soul is found in its faculty of understanding (“Binah”), the faculty with which it understands the greatness of G‑d.

להתבונן בגדולת ה׳ אין סוף ברוך הוא, ולהוליד אהבה עזה לה׳ כרשפי אש בחלל הימני שבלבו

[Thus, when the divine soul gains strength…over the animal soul…during prayer,] pondering on the greatness of G‑d, the blessed Ein Sof, and [thereby] giving birth to intense and flaming love of G‑d in the right part of his heart;

ואז אתכפיא סטרא אחרא שבחלל השמאלי

and then when the divine soul dominates the animal soul with its intense and revealed love of G‑d, the sitra achra (the evil of the animal soul) in the left part of the heart is subjugated.

אבל לא נתבטל לגמרי בבינוני, אלא בצדיק, שנאמר בו: ולבי חלל בקרבי

But it is not entirely abolished, in the case of the Beinoni; it is so only in a tzaddik, concerning whom it is said,8 “My heart is void9 within me.” The abode in the heart usually occupied by the evil inclination is void in the heart of a tzaddik.

והוא מואס ברע ושונאו בתכלית השנאה והמיאוס, או שלא בתכלית השנאה כנ״ל

He — the tzaddik —despises and loathes evil with a consummate hatred if he is a “complete” tzaddik, or without quite such utter hatred if he is an “incomplete” tzaddik, as explained above in ch. 10.

אבל בבינוני הוא דרך משל כאדם שישן, שיכול לחזור וליעור משנתו

All the above applies to the tzaddik. But in a Beinoni [the evil] merely lies dormant, as with a sleeping man, for example, who can awaken from his sleep at any time and reactivate his faculties.

כך הרע בבינוני הוא כישן בחלל השמאלי

So is the evil in the Beinoni dormant, as it were, in the left part of the heart, not functioning at all, not even desiring physical pleasures —

בשעת קריאת שמע ותפלה, שלבו בוער באהבת ה׳

during the recital of the Shema and Amidah, when his heart is aglow with the love of G‑d, causing the evil of the animal soul to be dormant.

ואחר כך יכול להיות חוזר וניעור

[Therefore,] after prayer it can reawaken.

The Alter Rebbe will now describe an even higher level of Beinoni — one who is permeated throughout the day with the same degree of love for G‑d that he feels during prayer. The animal soul of such a Beinoni is permanently dormant. Accordingly, we will understand how it was possible for Rabbah to classify himself mistakenly as a Beinoni.

In ch. 1 it was proved that the term Beinoni could not refer (as a literal interpretation would lead us to believe) to a person half of whose deeds are virtuous and half sinful. Were this so, how could such a sage like Rabbah, who never neglected his Torah study for even a moment, make the mistake of classifying himself as a Beinoni?

However, the Alter Rebbe’s definition of Beinoni as one who does not sin in practice, does not seem to satisfy this difficulty. Indeed, as the Alter Rebbe explained in ch. 12, a Beinoni never sins; yet he has sinful desires. Rabbah, who was in fact a tzaddik, must have known full well that he was free of such desire. How then could he even mistakenly classify himself as a Beinoni?

According to the discussion which now follows concerning the level of the Beinoni who never even desires evil, this matter is readily understood:

ולכן היה רבה מחזיק עצמו כבינוני, אף דלא פסיק פומיה מגירסא

For this reason Rabbah considered himself a Beinoni, though his mouth never ceased from Torah study,

ובתורת ה׳ חפצו יומם ולילה בחפיצה וחשיקה ותשוקה

and his desire was in [studying] G‑d’s Torah day and night, with a craving, desire and longing,

ונפש שוקקה לה׳ באהבה רבה, כבשעת קריאת שמע ותפלה

his soul yearning for G‑d with overwhelming love, such as that experienced during the recitation of the Shema and the Amidah.

During prayer, as mentioned above, the Beinoni’s heart is aroused to a love of G‑d so passionate that he does not feel the evil of his animal soul at all. Rabbah, however, experienced this arousal of love not only during prayer but throughout the day. Therefore, his animal soul was always dormant and he never desired mundane matters.

ונדמה בעיניו כבינוני המתפלל כל היום

It was therefore possible for him to consider himself a Beinoni, for he appeared in his own eyes as a Beinoni who prays all day, i.e., a Beinoni who throughout the day retains the level attained during prayer,

וכמאמר רז״ל: הלואי שיתפלל אדם כל היום כלו

as, indeed, our Sages have said,10 “Would that a man pray the whole day long!”

Such a Beinoni is constantly ablaze with the love of G‑d, and consequently his desire for evil is always dormant, as explained. Therefore, the absence of any evil desires did not conclusively prove to Rabbah that he was a tzaddik; it was still possible for him to maintain that he was a Beinoni — a Beinoni “who prays all day long.”

What emerges from all that has been said is that even during prayer when the Beinoni succeeds in arousing his love of G‑d and rendering the evil dormant, his divine soul has merely prevailed over his animal soul but has not vanquished it, for which reason it is possible for this state to cease after prayer. Therefore, the Beinoni’s level of divine service is not considered truthful when compared to the service of the tzaddik. For “truth” implies continuity and consistency.

The Alter Rebbe goes on to explain that nevertheless, the Beinoni’s love — relative to his standing — is considered a true form of service.

והנה מדת אהבה זו האמורה בבינונים בשעת התפלה על ידי התגברות הנפש האלקית כו׳

Now, this aformentioned love attained by Beinonim at the time of prayer by virtue of the temporary preponderance of the divine soul over the animal soul, etc.,

הנה לגבי מדרגת הצדיקים עובדי ה׳ באמת לאמיתו, אין בחינת אהבה זו נקראת בשם עבודת אמת כלל

when compared to the standard of the tzaddikim who serve G‑d in perfect truth (“in the truest manner of truth”), [this love] is not called “true service” at all,

מאחר שחולפת ועוברת אחר התפלה

since it passes and disappears after prayer;

וכתיב: שפת אמת תכון לעד, ועד ארגיעה לשון שקר

whereas it is written,11 “The language (lit., ‘the lip’) of truth shall be established forever, but the tongue of falsehood is only momentary.”

Thus, the term “truth” refers to something immutable; the temporary and passing are not considered “true”. The same applies here as well: Since the Beinoni’s love of G‑d is felt only during prayer and disappears afterwards, it does not measure up to the “truest” sense of truth — the perfect truth attained by tzaddikim.

ואף על פי כן לגבי מדרגת הבינונים נקראת עבודה תמה באמת לאמיתו שלהם

Nevertheless, in relation to the rank of the Beinoni, [this level of love] is regarded as a truly perfect service in terms of their level of truth, i.e., the level of Beinonim,

איש איש כפי מדרגתו במדרגת הבינונים

in each man relative to his standing in the category of the Beinonim (for, as mentioned earlier, the rank of Beinoni is subdivided into many levels).

והריני קורא באהבתם שבתפלתם גם כן: שפת אמת תכון לעד

Their love, too, which they possess [only] during prayer, I term, “The language of truth [,which] shall be established for ever,” i.e., their love is true and permanent, though manifest only during prayer,

הואיל ובכח נפשם האלקית לחזור ולעורר בחינת אהבה זו לעולם, בהתגברותה בשעת התפלה מדי יום ביום

since their divine soul has the power to reawaken this love constantly, whenever it gathers strength during prayer, day after day,

על ידי הכנה הראויה לכל נפש כפי ערכה ומדרגתה

by means of the spiritual preparation appropriate to each soul’s quality and rank. The higher the level of the soul, the less preparation it requires to awaken its love of G‑d. Regardless, every soul has the capacity to arouse its love of G‑d during prayer.

The Beinoni’s love of G‑d is thus constant, since it is either in an active, revealed state, or is in potentia, and can be revealed at any moment throughout the day (for, as mentioned earlier, every Beinoni has the potential to attain the level of “praying the whole day long.”

One difficulty yet remains: How is it possible for the same level of service to be considered untrue by the standards of tzaddikim, and true with regard to Beinonim? Is truth not absolute?

This matter is now explained as follows:

The quality of truth is to be found on every level. In each, truth means the essence and core of that level; i.e., truth is defined as that which agrees with the essence of that particular level where it is measured.

Since this is so in all the myriad levels of the spiritual worlds, from the very highest to the very lowest, and since the lowest levels are incomparable to the highest, how can it be said that the lower grades possess truth? We must say, therefore, that the term “truth” is relative to the level on which it is found, that each grade has its own core of truth. Things are true if they agree with [the essence of] their own level and untrue if they do not; they need not agree with a higher level to be considered “true”.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

כי הנה מדת אמת היא מדתו של יעקב, הנקרא בריח התיכון המבריח מן הקצה אל הקצה

For truth is the attribute of Jacob, as the verse states:12 “You give truth to Jacob,” who is called13 “the middle bolt which secures everything from end to end,”14 just as the middle bolt in the Tabernacle secured and bolted together all the boards by passing through them all.

מרום המעלות ומדרגות עד סוף כל דרגין

In spiritual terms, this means that the attribute of truth passes from the highest gradations and levels to the end (i.e., lowest) of all grades.

ובכל מעלה ומדרגה מבריח תוך נקודה האמצעית

in each gradation and level it passes through the central point of that particular level,

שהיא נקודת ובחינת מדת אמת שלה

which is, i.e., which then becomes the point and quality (i.e., the standard) of [that level’s] attribute of truth.

Proof is now given that each grade has its own standard of truth, as it were:

ומדת אמת היא נחלה בלי מצרים, ואין לה שיעור למעלה עד רום המעלות

The attribute of truth is an unbounded inheritance; it has no upper limit [as it extends] to the highest levels,

וכל מעלות ומדרגות שלמטה הם כאין לגבי מעלות ומדרגות שלמעלה מהן

and all lower gradations and levels are as nothing compared with those superior to them.

If, then, truth is found on all levels despite their disparity, we must conclude that the standard of truth on each level is relative to the core of that level.

In support for his statement that the lower levels and grades are incomparable to the higher ones, the Alter Rebbe cites:

כידוע ליודעי ח״ן שבחינת ראש ומוחין של מדרגות תחתונות הן למטה מבחינת עקביים ורגלי מדרגות עליונות מהן

As is known to those familiar with the Esoteric Discipline (i.e., Kabbalah), the quality that is the “head and intellect” — the highest level — within lower grades, is inferior to the “soles” and “feet” — the very lowest level — within the higher grades;

וכמאמר רז״ל: רגלי החיות כנגד כולן

as our Sages say,15 “The feet of the chayyot surpass all those levels lower than them, including the highest degree within those lower levels.”)

The attribute of truth, then, is measured according to the standards of each level. We may thus conclude that the divine service of the Beinoni is considered “true” service relative to their level, although when compared with the service of tzaddikim it is not considered “true”, since it passes after prayer.

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